|Publication number||US7657910 B1|
|Application number||US 09/519,008|
|Publication date||Feb 2, 2010|
|Filing date||Mar 3, 2000|
|Priority date||Jul 26, 1999|
|Also published as||WO2001008148A1|
|Publication number||09519008, 519008, US 7657910 B1, US 7657910B1, US-B1-7657910, US7657910 B1, US7657910B1|
|Inventors||Roger McAulay, Samuel Cohen|
|Original Assignee||E-Cast Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (122), Non-Patent Citations (6), Referenced by (43), Classifications (31), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/145,607, filed Jul. 26, 1999.
The invention is in the field of electronic entertainment systems. More particularly, the invention is in the field of electronic music and game machines for use in out-of-home venues.
Traditional entertainment systems for out-of-home use, for example in restaurants or bars, are typified by the jukebox that automatically plays selected gramophone records or compact discs after the insertion of a coin or coins. Originally, jukebox units were stand-alone units in venues such as restaurants and bars. More recently, game entertainment units have been placed in venues to allow patrons to play electronic games, such as electronic card games, after insertion of a fee using coins or some other method of payment. One disadvantage of some prior entertainment systems is that each freestanding unit, be it a music unit or a game unit, has a relatively small collection of music or games stored on the unit itself. This limits the user's selection and also requires that the available selection of games or music be updated when it includes too many unpopular selections.
Some prior systems have the capability to update a music selection from a remote location. In such a system, the update procedure occurs at intervals and during the update procedure the music unit is inoperative. It is a disadvantage of prior systems that the update procedure requires taking a music unit out of operation. This may necessitate performing updates more infrequently than may be desirable and precludes the real-time download of user-requested music during the operation of the unit. Another disadvantage of prior systems is that the way in which music selections are updated and stored is inefficient in terms of processing time and storage space required. For example, in some prior systems a separate catalog file containing song identification information and memory management information must be stored on the music unit.
Another limitation of traditional electronic entertainment systems is that even in venues where both music entertainment and game entertainment exist, game entertainment units and music entertainment units with individual capabilities exist separately. A user of a game unit, for example, cannot play music available in the venue without leaving the game unit to go to the music unit.
Yet another limitation of existing electronic entertainment systems is that they do not have real-time access to the Internet so that users in a venue may access the Internet for activities such as Internet browsing and shopping or playing tournament games from the same unit that allows music selection. Existing electronic entertainment systems are further limited in that they do not allow easy integration of a variety of peripheral devices, such as payment hardware and software or external game controllers.
A distributed electronic entertainment method and apparatus are described. In one embodiment, a central management resource is coupled to multiple out-of-home venues through a wide area network (WAN). The central management resource stores content and performs management, monitoring and entertainment content delivery functions. At each venue at least one entertainment unit is coupled to the WAN. Multiple entertainment units in a venue are coupled to each other through a local area network (LAN). In one embodiment, an entertainment unit includes a user interface that comprises at least one graphical user interface (GUI). The entertainment unit further comprises a local memory device that stores entertainment content comprising music, a peripheral interface, and a user input device. A plurality of peripheral devices are coupled to the at least one entertainment unit via the peripheral interface, wherein a user, through the user input device and the user interface, performs at least one activity from a group comprising, playing music, playing electronic games, viewing television content, viewing movies, and browsing the Internet.
A distributed electronic entertainment system is described. In various embodiments, the system provides the capabilities of selecting and playing music, selecting and playing games, including network games, viewing television content, viewing movies, Internet web browsing, and conducting e-commerce transactions from a single unit in a venue. In one embodiment, the system includes multiple entertainment units in a single venue that communicate with each other through a local area network (LAN). Each entertainment unit in the venue also communicates with a wide area network (WAN) and the Internet, either directly or through another entertainment unit in the venue.
Each of venues 104, 106, and 108 may be any physical location including a restaurant, a bar, an airport, a residence, etc. Venue 106 includes a single entertainment unit 126. Entertainment unit 126 communicates directly with central management resource 102 through WAN connection 122. Entertainment unit 126 may be capable of a variety of functions including, playing music stored locally on entertainment unit 126 or stored remotely on central management resource 102, playing games, including Internet hosted games, and Internet browsing. In some embodiments, the entertainment unit is further coupled to a data port separate from the WAN (not shown) so that a user may connect, for example, a laptop computer while accessing the functionality of the entertainment unit at the same time. The WAN connection may also serve as a data port.
Entertainment unit 126 is configured to accept a variety of peripheral units, such as payment hardware and software, a video camera, an external game controller, and user recognition hardware and software for performing thumbprint recognition or facial feature recognition. In various embodiments, unit 126 may be physically configured to stand on the floor of a venue, be attached to a wall, or sit on a countertop or table.
In venue 104, each of entertainment units 110-115 communicate with the central management resource 102 through a respective one of multiple WAN connections 124. Each of entertainment units 110-115 may have at least all of the capabilities described with reference to entertainment unit 126 or any subset of those capabilities or additional capabilities. Entertainment units 110-115 further communicate with each other through local area network (LAN) 128. The LAN 128 may use any physical or wireless network connections and any protocol. For example, the LAN may include TCP/IP, NetBIOS extended user interface (NetBEUI), or secure sockets layer (SSL).
In venue 108, primary entertainment unit 117 communicates directly with the central management resource 102 through WAN connection 123. All of the entertainment units 116-121 communicate with each other through LAN 130, which is similar to LAN 128. Each of secondary entertainment units 116 and 118-121 communicate with the central management resource 102 indirectly through the primary entertainment unit 117. The entertainment units 116-121 may have at least all of the capabilities described with reference to entertainment unit 126 or any subset of those capabilities or additional capabilities. In other embodiments, more than one entertainment unit in a venue may be a primary unit in that it communicates directly with the central management resource 102 both for itself and for secondary entertainment units coupled to it through a LAN.
Management hardware and software 202 performs administrative functions for venues connected through the WAN. Monitoring hardware and software 204 monitors the health of system components in venues 104, 106, and 108 and collects and stores data related to usage. Content delivery hardware and software 206 controls the delivery of content from content storage 210 to venues 104, 106, and 108.
Music may be selected with the user interface 718. The user has access through the user interface 718 to any music in a very large selection of music stored at the central management resource. Music may be selected from a list of albums. If an album is selected, the songs on the album are displayed with the album art. The user may also search for particular music by artist, song title, album title, genre, or year. Music selected by the user may be played from RAM if it is stored on memory 702. Music may also be played from the central management resource 102 through the WAN. Other embodiments may have one or more digital storage devices of various types to store entertainment content (such as music and games), operating instructions and data.
The user may use the interface 718 to select from a variety of games to be played on the entertainment unit. The available games include 2D and 3D action games, card games, trivia games, and any other electronic games. The user may choose to compete in networked games or one-on-one prize tournaments.
LAN interface 712 is the interface through which other entertainment units in a venue are connected to the entertainment unit 300. WAN interface 714 is the interface through which the venue containing the entertainment unit 300 communicates with central management resource 102. In some embodiments, the entertainment unit is further coupled to a data port separate from the WAN (not shown) so that a user may connect, for example, a laptop computer while accessing the functionality of the entertainment unit at the same time.
The WAN connection may also serve as a data port. Infrared (IR) remote unit 716 includes an IR transceiver for allowing remote control of functions such as volume control. The IR unit 716 further allows communication and exchange of data between mobile devices and the entertainment unit 300. For example, music may be transferred to a mobile storage and playback device such as a motion picture experts group (MPEG)-1 audio layer 3 (MP3) player. The IR unit 716 also enables data to be exchanged between a personal data assistant (PDA) device and entertainment unit 300. In other embodiments, the entertainment unit 300 also includes a radio frequency (RF) wireless module for wireless communication as described with reference to the IR unit 716. The RF module may be in place of or in addition to the IR unit 716.
The entertainment unit 300 includes a variety of payment devices. Coin acceptor 720 includes a mechanism to accept and recognize payment in the form of coins. Bill acceptor 706 includes a mechanism to accept and recognize payment in the form of bills. Credit card/smart card reader 708 includes hardware and software for accepting and recognizing a credit card or smart card for payment. Audio unit 710 includes audio hardware and software for playing music. In one embodiment, audio unit 710 includes speakers. In another embodiment, audio unit 710 is connected to speakers which are remote from the entertainment unit 300. Video unit 722 includes hardware and software for capturing and processing images. In one embodiment, the scene inside the venue is captured with the video unit 722. For a fee, a user may view the scenes in various other venues (that have similar entertainment units) on a display screen of the user interface 718.
User interface 718 includes a graphical user interface that allows the user to interact with and control the entertainment unit 300. The user interface 718 includes a display screen. When the entertainment unit 300 is not in use, the display screen displays various moving images. In one embodiment, an “attract loop” is displayed. The attract loop shows the activities that the user may access on the entertainment unit 300. The attract loop also shows advertisements. In one embodiment, the user interacts with the user interface 718 through a touch screen. In other embodiments, the user interacts with the entertainment unit 300 through a user input device including, but not limited to, a keyboard, mouse, trackball, joystick or IR remote control. In yet other embodiments the user interacts with the user interface 718 using voice commands received by audio unit 710. Processor 704 executes instructions stored on memory 702 to control the operation of the entertainment unit 300. Optionally, the entertainment unit 300 may include a radio receiver (not shown).
The entertainment unit 300 further includes a user identification (ID) device 724 that includes hardware and software for identifying a user. In one embodiment, the user initially establishes an ID and password to access functionality of the entertainment unit 300, including stored user preferences and user payment information. The user ID may be a manually entered alpha-numeric ID, a thumbprint, or facial characteristics. Facial recognition technology and thumbprint recognition technology are known.
The entertainment unit 300 may accept a variety of peripheral units to perform various functions through peripheral interface 740. Peripheral interface 740 may comprise several modules of peripheral interface hardware and software as required for a particular configuration of the entertainment unit 300. For example, the user ID module 724 and the credit card/smart card reader 708 may be peripheral modules coupled to the entertainment unit 300. Periodically, peripheral modules may be replaced to update or change the functionality of the entertainment unit 300. Additional supported peripheral devices include a video camera, an external game controller, and user recognition hardware and software for performing thumbprint recognition or facial feature recognition. In various embodiments, entertainment unit 300 may be physically configured to stand on the floor of a venue, be attached to a wall, or sit on a countertop or table
In various embodiments, entertainment units in venues may have more or less functionality than the entertainment unit 300. Some entertainment units may function for the most part as music units, while others function for the most part as game units. Regardless of how an entertainment unit is configured in terms of functionality, the entertainment unit may be a primary unit, in that it communicates directly with the central management resource 102, or a secondary unit in that it communicates with the central management resource 102 through a primary unit.
LAN interface 422 is the interface through which secondary entertainment units are connected to the entertainment unit 400. WAN interface 424 is the interface through which the venue containing the entertainment unit 400 is connected to central management resource 102. Infrared (IR) remote unit 426 includes an IR transceiver for allowing remote control of functions such as volume control. Bill acceptor 430 includes a mechanism to accept and recognize payment in the form of bills. Credit card/smart card reader 432 includes hardware and software for accepting and recognizing a credit card or smart card for payment. Audio unit 434 includes audio hardware and software for playing music. In one embodiment, audio unit 434 includes speakers. In another embodiment, audio unit 434 is connected to speakers which are remote from the entertainment unit 400. User interface 436 is a graphical user interface including a display screen. Processor 428 executes instructions stored on memory 420 to control the operation of the entertainment unit 400. Entertainment unit 400 may also operate as a sole entertainment unit in a venue.
LAN interface 1604 connects the entertainment unit 500 to a primary entertainment unit such as the entertainment unit 400. User interface 1616 has a graphical user interface with which the user interacts to control the entertainment unit 500. In one embodiment, the user inserts payment into the entertainment unit 500 through either bill acceptor 1610, coin acceptor 1612, or credit card/smart card reader 1614 before the user may choose a game to play as displayed on user interface 1616. In one embodiment, user interface 1616 includes a touch display screen and allows the user to browse the Internet with or without payment. User interface 1616 “plays” an attract loop as described with reference to
Generic venue 918 communicates with central management resource 102 through WAN 930. Content management logic 920 communicates with master content management logic 908. Music information database 922 stores essentially the same information as master music information database 922. That is, a user at a local venue will see every song title available from central management resource 102. Games database 924, in one embodiment, stores information about games as well as the games available at venue 918. In another embodiment, games database 924 includes information about games and the games available from central management resource 102. Music information database 922 and games database 924 may be available on a single unit in a venue or may be available separately on different units in any venue. Attract loop database 926 includes attract loops played at the units in venue 918. Activity log 928 stores activity information such as game and music usage information, fee information etc., for venue 918.
Administrator 902 interacts with the central content administration GUI 934. In some embodiments, central content administration GUI 934 is resident on central management resource 102. This is also true of content processing hardware and software 822, which is shown to be remote from the central management resource 102, but in other embodiments, could be in the same location as central management resource 102. In one embodiment, central content administration GUI 934, master music information database 802, master content management logic 908, music files storage 814 and album art files storage 816 reside on central management resource 102. The content administration GUI 934 allows the administrator 902 to manage content in the system 1000.
The content processing module 822 includes content processing hardware and software are shown. Recorded media 806 is music recorded in an electronic format on some medium such as compact disc, magnetic tape, or gramophone records. The information on recorded media 806 is digitally encoded via digital encoding hardware and software 808 to produce digitally encoded music data. The digitally encoded music data is placed in an intermediate storage 810. From the intermediate storage 810, the digitally encoded music data is transferred to master content management logic 908. The music data includes music identifying information, music files, and album art. Music files are stored in music file storage 814 and album art files are stored in album art storage 816. Master music information database 802 stores a master list of all the music represented by the music files and the album art files. In other embodiments, the music files, album art files and music information may be stored together, for example on master music information database 802.
In one embodiment, digitally encoded music data is transferred from intermediate storage 810 to compression hardware and software 812 where it is compressed and then transferred to master content management logic 820 in compressed form. The master content management logic may store initially compressed music information data in master music information database 802, music file storage 814, and album art storage 816. The master content logic also transfers music files and album art files from music file storage 814 and album art storage 816 to venue 918 when requested.
If the user does not have account or preference information stored, the user interface 1006 queries the user whether the user wishes to establish an identity and an account by allowing collection and storage of the necessary identification and charge account data by user ID logic 1004. When the user inputs an indication of the user's identity (for example, alphanumeric ID, thumbprint, or facial image), the input is converted to an electronic form that becomes the user ID associated with the user's charge account information in the user account logic 1008.
The user 1002 may view the music selection GUI 1040 to browse all of the music available on the central management resource 102. All of the available music is listed in the music information database 1014. As the user 1002 selects music listed in music information database 1014 and displayed by music selector GUI 1040, the user 1002 may choose to purchase a music selection. When the user 1002 chooses to purchase a music selection, web browsing 1012 is automatically invoked, and the user 1002 is taken to a web site where the selected music can be purchased using e-commerce logic 1010. The user may download a purchased music selection to a portable storage and play device, such as an MP3 player.
The user may also select music to be played in the venue. If a selected music or album art is not among local music files 1016 and local album art files 1018, the requested items are fetched from the central management resource 102 transparently to the user 1002.
Music information database 1014 contains pointers to music files and album art files stored in music files storage 1016 and album art storage 1018. Music queue logic 1022 and music play logic 1020 queue and play music selected by the user 1002. The selected music is forwarded by play logic 1020 to audio hardware and software such as, for example, a decoder, a digital to analog converter, and an amplifier.
Activity logic 1024 and activity log 1026 process and store information about activities occurring on the entertainment unit 110 such as, for example, purchase data and usage statistics of all kinds.
Through the user interface 1040, the user 1002 may also access the game selection GUI 1042. The game selector GUI 1042 allows the user 1002 to select games from game information database 1116. Game playing logic 1108 accesses local game files 1118 to play games selected by the user 1102. The user 1002, through game selector GUI 1042, may local games or network games such as tournament games. Game playing logic 1108, through web browser 1020, accesses network games including network games 1122 hosted on another browser in the venue, games 1124 hosted on another entertainment unit through a LAN in the venue, or games 1126 hosted on the WAN.
Entertainment unit 1100 is an exemplary configuration with exemplary functionality. In other embodiments, the entertainment unit may have more or less functionality. For example, the entertainment unit may have only music capability or only game capability. In addition, the entertainment unit may have video capability allowing the user to broadcast video of the venue and view live video from other venues.
In one embodiment, when a music selection is queued over the WAN it is first transmitted and locally stored in the venue to be played. In another embodiment, the queued music selection is streamed over the WAN to be played real-time at the venue.
The attract loop GUI 1304 is connected to the attract loop logic 1306 which controls the operation of the attract loop GUI 1304. The attract loop logic 1306 is connected to the attract loop content file storage 1318. The content file storage 1318 stores subject matter displayed in the attract loop, such as advertisements, available food or beverages, and activities of which a unit is capable. Activity log logic 1308 and activity log 1310 process and store activity occurring on attract loop GUI 1304. For example, activity log 1310 may store a number of times a particular advertisement is displayed. The number of times in any particular time period that a particular advertisement is displayed is usually random, in part because it is not possible to predict when a user will interrupt the attract loop. In one embodiment, the attract loop resumes after an interruption by restarting at the beginning. In another embodiment, the attract loop resumes at a random point, not necessarily the point at which it was interrupted.
In another embodiment, the music content stored locally is monitored by the central management resource according to a number of songs stored. Because most songs have a file size that falls within a known range, it is possible to determine how many songs will fill or nearly fill a particular local hard drive in a venue. The central management resource does not allow the number of songs to exceed a predetermined number so that the hard drive is never filled to over a certain percentage of its capacity. If the hard drive is filled beyond the percentage, its performance is noticeably degraded. When the central management resource determines that a local hard drive holds the predetermined number of songs, the disc is either partially or completely emptied. The hard drive contents may be completely or partially replaced according to any scheme, including those described herein.
The invention has been described with reference to particular embodiments. The invention encompasses other embodiments not described, but accessible to one of ordinary skill in the art. The scope of the invention is defined by the following claims.
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|U.S. Classification||725/61, 715/716, 725/141, 725/98|
|International Classification||G11B27/00, G11B27/34, G07F7/00, H04N7/173, A63F13/12, G06F3/00, G07F17/16, G07F17/30, G11B19/02, G11B19/08|
|Cooperative Classification||G07F17/0014, G11B27/34, G11B19/022, A63F2300/50, G11B27/002, G11B19/08, G06Q20/123, G07F17/305, A63F13/12|
|European Classification||G07F17/00C, G06Q20/123, G11B19/02A, G11B27/34, A63F13/12, G07F17/30B, G11B19/08, G11B27/00A|
|Jun 15, 2000||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: E-CAST, INC.,CALIFORNIA
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